After a major mishap during a performance for the president, the Barden Bellas are booted from the national competition, though they’re three-time (and returning) a cappella champions. The Bellas plan to fix their reputation by entering the international a cappella competiton, which no American group has ever won, and beating the German group, Das Sound Machine. But they also struggle to deal with group unity as Beca (Anna Kendrick) tries to make a name for herself in the music production industry, Chloe (Brittany Snow) faces college graduation, Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) finally admits that she has feelings for Boomer (Adam Devine), and newcomer Emily (Hailee Steinfeld) introduces new music to their mashup world.
Let me start off by saying that Pitch Perfect was one of my favorite movies of 2012. The whole thing was awesome, from the screenplay to the a cappella mashups. Needless to say, when I heard they were working on a sequel, I felt cautiously optimistic (I say “cautiously” because sequels often suck, but the return of screenwriter Kay Cannon and the introduction of Elizabeth Banks as the new director made me less worried). Thankfully, Pitch Perfect 2 was a total blast.
That said, I’m a little disappointed that the sequel basically copied the first film’s story. The Barden Bellas have an “oopsie” during one of their performances that makes them the laughing stock of the a cappella world. While the group’s seniors deal with their personal struggles, the new girl enters with new music and has a romance with one of the Treblemakers.
Oh, and there’s the rival a cappella group with whom the Barden Bellas exchange witty comebacks and face in a riff-off. Then, there’s the big team bonding moment when the Bellas realize they need to work together, which leads them into their final performance, where they blow everyone away. Did I just describe the first movie or the second? Trick question: Both. Yes, they both have the exact same plot with minor change-ups.
The screenplay was definitely a lot sloppier this time around, which made the movie feel like it was rushing at times. And who was the main character of this film? Anna Kendrick’s Beca was the main character in the first movie because she was our outsider view into the a cappella world (with all of the other characters acting as secondary, comic relief, or antagonistic characters). This time, Beca wasn’t the main character. In fact, it’s like the movie tried to make ALL of the Barden Bellas the main characters, which…nope. You need at least one to four definable main characters. (Arguably, we could say Beca, Fat Amy, Chloe, and Emily, but none of them really got enough character growth/stories to be true main characters.)
Other character problems? Skylar Astin’s Jesse disappeared into a “boyfriend” role, which is fine considering it happens to actresses all the freaking time in movies (But still, he’s so charming onscreen). Ester Dean’s Cynthia Rose barely got any lines in the movie. The only one I can remember is “I’m black, gay, and a woman” (when responding to a minority comment). And then there’s Chrissie Fit’s Flo, who didn’t speak at all in the first film, but suddenly got bumped up into the Latin stereotype role, where all she talked about was getting deported, being sold by her brother, etc. Uh…not cool.
On the upside, however, the German team (with the leads played by Birgitte Hjort Sorensen and Flula Borg) was hysterical, as was the inclusion of the Green Bay Packers in the riff-off. Of course, there’s a bunch of cameos, too, like Keegan Michael Key as Beca’s music production boss, Katey Sagal as a former Bella and Emily’s mother, Anna Camp reprising her role of Aubrey, and David Cross as the Riff-Off Host (God, he’s so weird that I love him). And obviously the music is SOLID yet again, so I mean, go download the soundtrack.
Overall, though, the movie is pretty damn good. And I especially love the bigger message the film promotes about getting away from the “spectacle” aspect of musical performing arts and focusing on what truly matters, which is the teamwork and reliance on vocals. As a former show choir kid, I can’t tell you how many times our school’s group of 36 beat out groups of 64+ (who had a million costume changes, giant bands, and stunts) because we had better vocals. So, yeah, while the story was kind of sloppy, the point it was making was sturdy and something I think every performer can agree with.
Overall, Pitch Perfect 2 isn’t as solid as its predecessor. It copied the same formula from the first movie (which why reinvent the wheel, yes, I know), and there wasn’t a definable “main character” like there was in the first film. But that’s not to say the movie wasn’t a ton of fun. The rivalry with the Germans, the awesome music, and the message about vocals vs. spectacle are definitely worth the watch.
Pitch Perfect 2: B+
For my radio review of Pitch Perfect 2 on “Pat & JT in the Morning,” visit this link (starts around the 26:10 mark).